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Thread: "I'm only me"

  1. #1

    "I'm only me"

    Hi. This is an effort to start a discussion as an artist and a novice art teacher at a local school, so please take it with a grain of salt. It is a general discussion apart from the Earth Touching project. Please feel free to respond from your own experience.

    When I moved from being a solitary studio artist, to connecting with local people who want to learn painting, there was an issue that consistently stood out. Making art does not have to be about making a mark on the world in a public way, but it just might be. Whether it is making something in your garden that only you and the birds will enjoy, or having a vision that (who knows) could move the world, it starts with an “ordinary” person having inspiration and a vision. Many times students confess a dream of standing up and helping make this world, then immediately express embarrassment at having been so “egotistical” or presumptuous. The embarrassment presents as noble humility, but it is not that. There is a view that somehow people today and in all times who have dreamed, and poured energy into developing skills, and who have made this world we live in, are part of something that “I’ am not a part of. In other words “I” inhabit a cultural environment created by others, follow their traditions as objective paths, look up the them maybe, and never think that “I” can make this world too. Not only that, when someone takes this view and says “only me” there are voices always ready to chime in with “only you”. The diminished “me” will always find partners. Those partners (who may love you very much) can be like the current of a stream flowing away from creative dreams. There is no blame in it. It is just clustering and gravity.

    Just to be clear I don’t engage in “everyone is a winner for showing up” self-esteem nonsense, or advocate a puffed-up self image. I’m talking about aspiration, inspiration, and a determination to develop skills to realize it.


    For anyone wanting to engage in creative work, whether it is striving to bloom publicly, or just taking a creative leap in the garden, it does involve a certain protection of the heart. It does not mean being closed or shutting other people out. It is creating space for a solitary flame to build in you, that can’t be blown out by other voices.


    Gassho
    Daizan

    sat today
    Last edited by RichardH; 04-18-2016 at 02:23 AM.

  2. #2
    Hi Daizan,

    Interesting thoughts there. I need to ponder on this a bit more before I can give a sensible reply.

    Gassho,
    Ongen

    Sat Today
    Ongen (音源) - Sound Source

  3. #3
    Hi Daizan,

    I think it is important that you mention "developing skills".

    When not knowing artists personally, one can get wrong ideas easily, and some self-presentation or documentaries support this cliché of the "born artist".
    I never knew as a child how much work and experience it takes to be a painter, or that people prepare for art schools.

    I thought, one sunny day someone like van Gogh woke up, bought some colours, and made their big famous paintings.
    Or they sat down and wrote a novel in one go.

    So, till the day the Muses inspire me, how can "I" ever be an artist?

    (A bit like hoping to wake up as a master of tea ceremony or martial arts without ever practising.)

    I know musicians have to practice a lot, but there seems to be a bit of a fight if musicians or only composers are artists - the composers being "real" artists, and the musicians "executing artists" of some minor kind.

    Among artists themselves seems to be this "looking down" on non-professionals.
    I like that you give your students the chance to aspire to something.
    I have a friend who has been learning and practising drawing for decades, but because she does her beautiful sketches after her 9-5, she would never call herself an "artist".

    In my case, I've noticed it makes a difference whether I said I did "carving" (well, OK, some grandpas do that too) or "wood sculpting" (why would anyone do that?).
    Carving is something useful, you could make a spoon when needed. Bit boring, but OK.
    Sculpting means you make a lot of noise, dirt, and end up with some biggish ugly piece of wood. And what's even worse, you dabble in arts!

    Some people approach one with a critical glare "Are you doing art?" - "Oh, no, I'm making decoration for my balcony." - "Ah, sure, decoration is nice."

    Gassho
    Jika
    #sattoday
    Last edited by Jika; 04-18-2016 at 03:13 PM. Reason: grammar
    治 Ji
    花 Ka

  4. #4
    A big inspiration in my life is playing sports, so consider me a performance artist. Or sometimes poetry in motion.

    SAT today
    _/_
    Rich
    MUHYO
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

    I may be wrong and not knowing is acceptable

  5. #5
    Hi Daizan,

    This is a most interesting topic for me.

    I am not at artist. Never have been and probably will never be. I do enjoy a little paining here and there, but I keep it mostly for myself.

    My grand ma, who was a painter, she used to paint people portraits and nature scenes under commission. She got paid for them, but what she really enjoyed was to paint stuf for her and only her. It all got to the point that we discovered most of her pieces until she died!

    She taught me to always do art to please one self first. Critics and people will always have opinions just as I have mine. But I let myself think in people's reaction prior to actually start working on art, I wouldn't get too far.

    Thank you for posting this.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    #SatToday
    Hondō Kyōnin
    奔道 協忍

  6. #6
    Nindo
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Kyonin View Post
    I am not at artist. Never have been and probably will never be.
    Of course you are! Writers are artists!!

    Gassho
    Nindo

  7. #7
    Hi all,

    I feel the word artist is the whole problem in this creative world. When I was in art school I saw all around me people who looked down on those 'hobbyists' while I've seen untrained 'hobbyists' create the most fantastic things. And about a year ago when I walked through my hometown I noticed this new 'artwork' that was purchased by the city council for a huge amount of money. It was a simple concrete-block-and-steel-beam thing which anyone could have thought up, without any impact apart from the space it took up.

    My roommate during artschool, who was an art student too, drew his graduation artwork on the living room couch with a ballpoint, while watching cheech and chong and smoking weed. There was not one ounce of thought, not even a hint of inspiration. Just mindless doodling. When he finished it, he thought up a nice story about it and graduated cum laude.

    What is art? The mindless doodling of my highly trained roommate, or the meticulously and lovingly crafted water-colorings of Mrs. Dearoldlady who lives around the corner?

    For me to call something art, there has to be skill involved. There has to be insight. There has to be intentional impact on the viewer. Whether the creator has gone through intensive professional training is completely irrellevant.

    I learned to sing, to play the melodeon, bodhrán and whistles by listening and practising. No official training involved. I play music because I love to do so, because I've seen that my music can have impact on people, brighten their day. Shed a light on an issue. Am I an artist? Really, I don't care. There's a lot of love involved. And skill, by now. The message gets across. Isn't that what it's about?

    Here's a song that I wrote, sang and recorded with my old band, all non-trained musicians. Straight from my heart and experience onto the paper. I bet if a 'professionally trained musician/artist' took a good look at it, it might be lacking hugely. But it certainly helped me get over some stuff, and I know it helped others too. Which makes it valuable. As good or bad as it is. https://vincentpompe.stackstorage.co...eJWkOHPB305fUL

    That concrete block in my hometown doesn't help anyone. Well maybe the graffiti 'artists' who use it as a canvas. And the creator who received a lot of money for it. Further nobody likes it.

    And yes if you have that way of thinking, some protection of the heart is nescessary. I do feel that protection of the heart is very well possible while still being completely open.
    Perhaps if you see the self for what it is, you can create art out of another place than this so called self. Indeed protection of the heart, not of the self. It's a very thin line if you're not careful...


    Gassho
    Ongen

    Sat Today
    Last edited by Ongen; 04-19-2016 at 11:46 AM.
    Ongen (音源) - Sound Source

  8. #8
    Everyone is an art critic.
    Our response to any creative act is always subjective. If one is a trained artist the response comes from a very different place, but still a personal opinion.
    The monochromatic minimalist paintings that came out of the minimalist movement at the end of the 20th century would often elicit the response from the viewer "I could do that!". It's hard to explain just how much skill and experience went into those paintings. Like them or not.
    We bring so much of our own history to both the making and witnessing art. The making of art that is done with spirit and heart and skill, in my mind is the most successful, whether its the ameteur who will never have the courage or the desire to make it public, or the trained artist out in the world. But still it's my subjective opinion.
    A creative act does not need to be visual, but can be a delicious meal, a turn of phrase, a song, a poem, a beautiful garden. Creativity is within us all...and that is the beauty of this life...nascent creativity or full blown.
    Fascinating topic, thank you Daizan.
    Bows
    Anne
    ~st~

  9. #9
    Wow. Thank you for these responses. It is interesting how charged the word "Artist" can be. I know people who react to the term as if it is hopelessly pretentious. There are also people who say the whole thing is a con, and they point to minimalism as evidence. For me it is the actual name of the job that goes on my tax return. The term "painter' is also used. Anne makes a really good point about what "skill" means. There tends to be an assumption that artistic skill should be rooted in classical naturalism.

    I'm going to hunt down a whole bunch of wonderfully skilled stuff that shows anyone can work from where they are if they want to.. "artist" or not. I'll post it here with info..

    Deep bows and bows
    gassho
    Daizan

    sat today

  10. #10
    For me it is the actual name of the job that goes on my tax return.
    That's interesting - seems to be the way with many jobs, mine too!

    As long as you are an outsider, the job sounds quite impressive. Oh, how exciting it must be.
    I am very much convinced (just by my imagination) that a painter, an author, a window cleaner, a carpenter, a gardener have a much more fascinating job than me.
    Not so sure about a professional cook (knowing a friend's stories - didn't know it involves so much economics), and neither sure about zen priests .
    When you've been doing a job some time, the name is just a description, a category, and you yourself know what it means to you.

    Thank you, Daizan.
    Very helpful answer.

    Gassho
    Jika
    #sattoday
    治 Ji
    花 Ka

  11. #11
    .... the trouble is everything has become a commodity - I don't suppose the individuals who first made paintings on cave walls were bothered about descriptors for their creativity and they weren't thinking about whether they were successful in terms of money or being well known.
    I just see 'art' as a form of intentional creativity - and have always been inspired by what takes place 'on the edges' - whether it be in art, music or writing. I'm lucky to know some really productive artists - some have taken formal training and others are self-taught. There is little difference in the quality of output.
    I think an artist, writer or musician create their own terms of what stands for 'success'. If one is hoping to make a living it's clearly different to being at liberty to simply go with the flow.
    Probably most creativity goes unsung and unnoticed - though the internet is a great liberalizer. It's nice when others appreciate my work - and does encourage me - but it's not essential. For me artistic endeavour is a personal journey of discovery - it's lovely when it chimes with others but we all have our own journeys to make even as we try to convey some meaning or emotional impact.

    Gassho

    Willow

    sat today
    Last edited by Jinyo; 04-20-2016 at 02:11 PM.

  12. #12
    Member Hoseki's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Location
    St. John's Newfoundland, Canada.
    Quote Originally Posted by Daizan View Post
    Hi. This is an effort to start a discussion as an artist and a novice art teacher at a local school, so please take it with a grain of salt. It is a general discussion apart from the Earth Touching project. Please feel free to respond from your own experience.

    When I moved from being a solitary studio artist, to connecting with local people who want to learn painting, there was an issue that consistently stood out. Making art does not have to be about making a mark on the world in a public way, but it just might be. Whether it is making something in your garden that only you and the birds will enjoy, or having a vision that (who knows) could move the world, it starts with an “ordinary” person having inspiration and a vision. Many times students confess a dream of standing up and helping make this world, then immediately express embarrassment at having been so “egotistical” or presumptuous. The embarrassment presents as noble humility, but it is not that. There is a view that somehow people today and in all times who have dreamed, and poured energy into developing skills, and who have made this world we live in, are part of something that “I’ am not a part of. In other words “I” inhabit a cultural environment created by others, follow their traditions as objective paths, look up the them maybe, and never think that “I” can make this world too. Not only that, when someone takes this view and says “only me” there are voices always ready to chime in with “only you”. The diminished “me” will always find partners. Those partners (who may love you very much) can be like the current of a stream flowing away from creative dreams. There is no blame in it. It is just clustering and gravity.

    Just to be clear I don’t engage in “everyone is a winner for showing up” self-esteem nonsense, or advocate a puffed-up self image. I’m talking about aspiration, inspiration, and a determination to develop skills to realize it.


    For anyone wanting to engage in creative work, whether it is striving to bloom publicly, or just taking a creative leap in the garden, it does involve a certain protection of the heart. It does not mean being closed or shutting other people out. It is creating space for a solitary flame to build in you, that can’t be blown out by other voices.


    Gassho
    Daizan

    sat today
    I just thought I would chime in here. Often people are afraid of the criticism of other as well as their own so they self-censor or simply don't try. So you might encounter someone who takes back an aspiration to change the world for fear of looking foolish.

    The idea that "everyone is a winner for showing up" might not be too far off from what it takes to get people to take creative risks. If people feel safe to try something new there is the change that they might enjoy it. But they have to be prepared for this attempt to not turn out the way they want which can be painful. I'm not sure what you had in mind but often I read criticism of this idea that everyone is a winner, participation trophies and the like and it seems to come from people who see the world as a series of sum zero games rather than a series of opportunities for growth.

    I think your students and students in general need to know its OK to take risks and its OK to feel pain when things don't go the way they want. I don't know how help people reach that point (I'm not there) but creating a safe space might be part of it.

    Anywho just some thoughts that happened.



    Gassho
    Sat today
    Adam

  13. #13
    "everyone is a winner for showing up"
    Daizan,
    yes, please, I would like to ask about this too. Maybe the concept is not known that much over here.
    Could you explain what this means, and what you criticize?

    I thought I am probably misunderstanding it, but my first idea was how I (and many friends) felt already as winners when showing up for a half-marathon.
    (Ages ago.)
    It was snowing, the trail was slippery, nobody was expecting a "good" result in measures of time.
    But wow, it was what we had been training for for months!
    So, of course we all wanted to finish, but even preparing for this and showing up on that cold day was something.

    I'm aware this was sports, not creativity.
    So I probably don't have a clue what you are talking about.
    Please elaborate.

    Gassho
    Jika
    #sattoday
    治 Ji
    花 Ka

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Jika View Post
    Daizan,
    yes, please, I would like to ask about this too. Maybe the concept is not known that much over here.
    Could you explain what this means, and what you criticize?

    I thought I am probably misunderstanding it, but my first idea was how I (and many friends) felt already as winners when showing up for a half-marathon.
    (Ages ago.)
    It was snowing, the trail was slippery, nobody was expecting a "good" result in measures of time.
    But wow, it was what we had been training for for months!
    So, of course we all wanted to finish, but even preparing for this and showing up on that cold day was something.

    I'm aware this was sports, not creativity.
    So I probably don't have a clue what you are talking about.
    Please elaborate.

    Gassho
    Jika
    #sattoday
    Hi Jika. First of all sorry for not posting the art I mentioned in the last post... been busy leading up to the Shukke Tokudo tomorrow. I'll post over the weekend, there are so many amazing ways that skill in art can develop.

    “everyone is a winner for showing up”
    I can't speak to this from a Zen perspective or with a Zen voice, by I can have an opinion as a parent and an art teacher, because it is a topic that comes up mainly around parenting and schooling.....

    In an effort to build a healthy sense of social self there can be an avoidance of winner vs loser scenarios in a classroom environment. In my personal opinion there are times when this is appropriate, but it can also go too far the other way. "You are special and perfect as you are" is the message, but it is a "special" and "perfect" that needs to be shielded from losing to others in competition, people finding fault with you, or making mistakes and accepting consequences. It can lead to an over-estimation of one's self, skills, talents, and a sense of social entitlement. I think most young people get knocked around plenty by life and these tendencies don't survive it, but there is concern that it is leading to narcissistic adults.

    That's the basic idea as I understand it, as a parent and an art teacher. So when teaching art, I am careful to discern where to ecourage and where to challenge.

    Gassho
    Daizan

    sat today

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by willow View Post
    .... the trouble is everything has become a commodity - I don't suppose the individuals who first made paintings on cave walls were bothered about descriptors for their creativity and they weren't thinking about whether they were successful in terms of money or being well known.
    I just see 'art' as a form of intentional creativity - and have always been inspired by what takes place 'on the edges' - whether it be in art, music or writing. I'm lucky to know some really productive artists - some have taken formal training and others are self-taught. There is little difference in the quality of output.
    I think an artist, writer or musician create their own terms of what stands for 'success'. If one is hoping to make a living it's clearly different to being at liberty to simply go with the flow.
    Probably most creativity goes unsung and unnoticed - though the internet is a great liberalizer. It's nice when others appreciate my work - and does encourage me - but it's not essential. For me artistic endeavour is a personal journey of discovery - it's lovely when it chimes with others but we all have our own journeys to make even as we try to convey some meaning or emotional impact.

    Gassho

    Willow

    sat today

    Like
    _/_
    Rich
    MUHYO
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

    I may be wrong and not knowing is acceptable

  16. #16
    Daizan,
    thank you.
    I think I'm getting an idea now.

    Good preparations for tomorrow!
    Gassho
    Jika
    #sattoday
    治 Ji
    花 Ka

  17. #17
    Nindo
    Guest
    As a writer, it took me a long (LOOOONG) time to realize that an author's printed page is not the same as the first draft. This expectation had been a major obstacle to my creativity. I credit Natalie Goldberg with getting me over it (she is a student of Katagiri Roshi and has written many great books about the writing life).

    I see my writing as a practice now, in every sense of the word. It is something I do for myself, but it has very unexpected ways to reach out to other people, almost in a life of its own. I can make a decision what to share, but I cannot control how it will be received. That is quite wonderful. Maybe it is a little like metta practice - you just do it, and how it will blossom, you don't know. Actually, responses are often quite surprising to me!

    Some writing I have shared with just one person, some here on the forum, some with a church full of Unitarians, some with an unknown audience of readers. It feels great to speak into the mic, to get good feedback, to see it in print, to win a prize. I will accept challenges like poetry contests, but basically I am just doing my thing, whether it is going to be "out there" one day or not. (And without constant practice, I would not be ready for contests, anyway.)

    Does that make any sense?
    Gassho
    Nindo

  18. #18
    Hi. Here are four examples of "artists" (people making art stuff) who had a fascination, an interest, and developed their own vision. Some of it might look like "my kid can do that" but then I invite you look closer, cut and paste these names onto google, and look into their lives, and you can see what has gone into their work....



    The first is one of my favorites, Agnes Martin.. a woman of the prairies.
    agnes-martin-031.jpg



    Richard Diebenkorn..
    Diebenkorn_Ocean Park 105_3.jpg


    Pierre Bonnard..
    N05414_10.jpg


    Georgia O'Keeffe..
    sky-above-clouds-iv.jpg


    These are not "Buddhist artists" dealing with Buddhist subjects (though there can be an influence) , but they are good examples of creative people leaving behind restrictive ideas of "realism" (..an interesting subject, what is a "realistic" work of art?). They pursued a vision with dedication and developed the skills needed, they trusted their vision and took leaps. We can do that when moved by our practice and tradition.


    Gassho
    Daizan

    sat today
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by RichardH; 04-25-2016 at 12:45 AM.

  19. #19
    hello,
    Wanted to add a few names to the list of artists that Daizan started.

    Robert Irwin, a conceptual minimalist works with light. A wonderful biography of Irwin by Lawrence Weschler "Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees". By the title you can deduce his influences.
    http://observer.com/2012/09/blink-an...t-to-new-york/

    Wolfgang Laib, German artist that works with pollen and bees wax, stone, milk. Taoist influence. The pollen pieces in particular are stunning.
    http://www.sculpture.org/documents/s...aib/laib.shtml

    This is getting into land artists, which is appropriate in thinking about earth and art...

    Robert Smithson, early land artist whose piece the spiral jetty is on the far north edge of The Great Salt Lake in Utah. An amazing piece which disappears and reappears depending on rain and lade level
    https://www.google.com/search?q=robe...w=1215&bih=687

    Andy Goldsworthy, is the best known of the contemporary living land artists.
    https://www.google.com/search?q=andy...3qA_5rh9POM%3A

    To name a couple. Land art has been around for 40-50 years, many of the pioneers are dead. The early artists tore the earth up with heavy equipment. Thankfully those days are over. The more contemporary work is more a celebration of earth.

    gassho
    Anne
    ~st~

  20. #20
    I see my writing as a practice now, in every sense of the word. It is something I do for myself, but it has very unexpected ways to reach out to other people, almost in a life of its own. I can make a decision what to share, but I cannot control how it will be received. That is quite wonderful. Maybe it is a little like metta practice - you just do it, and how it will blossom, you don't know. Actually, responses are often quite surprising to me!

    Some writing I have shared with just one person, some here on the forum, some with a church full of Unitarians, some with an unknown audience of readers. It feels great to speak into the mic, to get good feedback, to see it in print, to win a prize. I will accept challenges like poetry contests, but basically I am just doing my thing, whether it is going to be "out there" one day or not. (And without constant practice, I would not be ready for contests, anyway.

    Does that make any sense?
    Gassho
    Nindo
    Makes sense to me. Art, to me, is not about external validation, being paid/displayed. I have had both, in small ways. Art is about the realization of the internal need to create and to express what moves the artist in a visceral way.

    Gassho,
    Sozan

    s@2day

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